Adventist Broomshop in Dallas
By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011
James White came to Texas expecting to not only organize a conference but also to establish an Adventist hub, such as was the case in Battle Creek and later in the Oakland, Calif., area. As early as November, 1878, James had observed that Denison might surpass any place in Texas, as it had several railroads, and excellent sandy soil. By December he had indicated that Mrs. M.J. Bahler would be in charge of the book depository for the south — that is, for the Tract and Missionary Societies (somewhat equivalent today of the Adventist Book Centers).
Thirty months earlier, D. M. Canright had visited Texas, organizing the Dallas Seventh-day Adventist Church. As he boarded a train for Arkansas, Canright wrote to White, suggesting that a gentleman from Battle Creek, named A.H. King, would be a great person to send to Texas to establish the Sabbath School work. Canright also suggested that White would find Texas to be a great place to spend the winter.
One of three members of the General Conference executive committee, Canright was a very capable leader and speaker, and was quite influential. He was particularly a close friend of James White.
True to the content of that May, 1876 letter, King did come to Texas to engage in Sabbath School work, and White, as we know, wintered in Texas as Canright had suggested.
In a further development, James White and A.H. King worked out a partnership agreement for a business venture. James would put up money for a broom shop in the Dallas area. King would run the business, which also apparently included a farm where broom-corn was grown.
Apparently their agreement included the arrangement that King would repay to White half of the startup cost, and they would share the profit. Apparently there was some discussion of opening a second broom shop in Denison.
Not a small venture, the Dallas shop employed about 50 to 60 men, including A.W. Jensen, an early Seventh-day Adventist minister to the Texas Scandinavians in Bosque County. Jensen's colporteur work among the Norwegians would result in a number of "young people" abandoning their Lutheran faith to organize the Norse Seventh-day Adventist Church. (NOTE: This is the church that holds services the second Sabbath of each October.)
Another employee of the Dallas broomshop was Job Huguley, owner of the farm in Plano where the organizational Texas camp meeting was held in November, 1878.
Late in 1878, James White persuaded 19-year-old Will K. Kellogg to leave his family broom shop in west Battle Creek to supervise the Texas venture. (NOTE: This is the same W.K. Kellogg who made Kellogg's Cornflakes famous. He is also a younger brother to John Harvey Kellogg, who by this time had taken over the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, changing the name to the Battle Creek Sanitarium. By 1878 the "San" had already grown enormously under Kellogg's leadership.)
Kellogg arrived in late December, just in time for the hard freeze and snow of early January. By late January, Will had survived several bouts of homesickness. He was working late nights, long days, and sometimes weekends. Somehow he managed also to attend a singing school taught by Elder R.M. Kilgore's younger brother, Scott. (The Kilgores were very musical.) Will also attended socials where he was introduced to Miss Cole. However, a young lady back home had stolen his heart, and no Texas girl was in his thoughts as much as Ella Davis. Ella, whom Will referred to as "Puss D," was a younger sister to Marian Davis, Ellen White's editor.
In February, Will went to the Dallas church where "Mrs. White preached this forenoon." Then, on March 19, (according to Kellogg's biographer, Horace B. Powell), "Elder White called me out of the shop and then told King to get out to the farm and let me run the shop." About three weeks later, Will was in Denison for a visit with the Whites. There, Will says, "The Elder called me in to talk. He wants me to take the business and run the whole thing. I don't want to."
On June 10, Will was visiting Fort Worth. He commented, "Had lots of company last night. Bedbugs and fleas. Got three bugs off myself this morning. I like Fort Worth better than Dallas. It is higher."
His disdain for Dallas is made clearer by a July 25 diary entry, "The sewers here in Dallas all run out in the open air, some along the streets and some under the sidewalks. Down by the central market, there is a fearful stench comes up from under the sidewalks."
By August, Will was quite frustrated at the broom factory. Brother King was pretty consistent in not using good business judgment, nor was he doing much work, which led to numerous business crises for Will to solve. Money in Texas was short. Brooms were not selling. James White was no longer in Denison. Some of the hands were imbibing too much fruit of the vine. Morale was low.
Will returned to Michigan in November, 1879, and in less than a year he was married to Ella Davis.
In less than two years, James White was dead, and although Brother King repented of his neglect, he spent the next few years just trying to make ends meet. He was never able to pay to Ellen the debt he owed James White. Fortunately, there were great successes in other areas of Adventist endeavor in Texas that year, 1878-79. Read on to find about them.
About this Article Series
The complete story of the Whites' Texas sojourn had never before been published before this series of articles appeared in the Keene Star newspaper (Dec 2003-Apr 2004). The series touches on the highlights, and presents little known facts about the Whites' stay in Texas.